A Knight Often Started His Career Being Tested With Poverty

November 14, 2019

One of the most severe tests to which one could put the young damoiseaux was to deprive them of their fortune, and say to them, “We will give you nothing. Depart and seek your fortune elsewhere.

We know the advantages, the really enormous advantages, which the feudal system assured to the eldest son, and it is not astonishing that the cadets desirous of a better lot, had sometimes a thirst—a noble thirst—for adventure, when they did not enter the Church. . . . The devoted themselves to rash enterprises in distant lands. The heroic poems which they had heard sung every day in their father’s chateau were still calculated to develop such ideas in their youthful heads.

They saw only damoiseaux despoiled of their inheritance, going forth to conquer kingdoms at the point of the lance. The spectators of this prowess, always so interesting to the disinherited ones, were poor people whose merit alone led them to fortune.

“When I first came to Paris I wore sabots,” is not a saying of yesterday, and Aimeri de Narbonne repeated it, as it stands, to his children whom he disinherited; “when I went to Vienna I had nothing,” he added.

A sabaton or solleret is part of a knight’s body armour that covers the foot.

In all courts, and about the person of princes, there were a great number of “younger sons,” portionless lads—valets who looked to every point of the compass in search of distinction and glory . . .  and the rest.

León Gautier, Chivalry, trans. Henry Frith (London: George Routledge and Sons, Ltd., 1891), 186–7.


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